Court Backs Florida Homeowners In Hurricane Damage Dispute

Article Courtesy of  The Free Press

Published June 14, 2022


An appeals court Friday sided with homeowners in a dispute about additional damage they found after accepting a check from a property-insurance company for a claim stemming from Hurricane Matthew.

A three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal overturned a Brevard County circuit-court decision that People’s Trust Insurance Co. did not have to pay for the additional damage because Richard and Leanne Lemon had accepted the check.

The $15,286 check covered the costs of repairing the home’s roof, fence and a master-bedroom ceiling after the October 2016 hurricane, according to Friday’s ruling.

But the homeowners later sought to supplement their claim after discovering moisture damage in ceilings, the garage and a home office. The Lemons submitted a claim of $35,155 and filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit when People’s Trust did not respond, the ruling said.

During the trial, the insurer argued that “once it tendered the check and the Lemons accepted it, there was an accord and satisfaction that barred any further recovery,” according to the appeals court.

A jury agreed with the insurer, but the appeals court said that “under no view could the language on the check evince an intention to settle future, unknown supplemental claims.”

As a result, it said the circuit judge should have entered what is known as a “directed verdict” for the homeowners.

“Because the language of the check tendered in satisfaction of the original damage claim is susceptible of only one interpretation — that it was offered (and accepted) in settlement of only the damages claimed and adjusted as of that date — and there was no evidence whatsoever of the parties’ intent to preclude supplemental claims, it was error to deny the Lemons’ motion for directed verdict and subsequent motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on PTI’s (People’s Trust Insurance’s) affirmative defense of accord and satisfaction,” said the ruling, written by Judge Carrie Ann Wozniak and joined by Judges Kerry Evander and F. Rand Wallis.